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Menopause and the Mind: Science-Backed Strategies for Emotional Well-being and Cognitive Health

research studies Feb 09, 2024

Embarking on the journey through menopause is a significant phase in a woman's life, the end of her reproductive years. While this transition liberates women from monthly menstruation, for some, it also brings about hormonal changes that can affect mood, cognition, and mental health.

What Happens in Women's Brains during Menopause?

Around midlife, typically between the ages of 45 and 58, women undergo changes in
reproductive aging marked by a decline in estrogen levels, impacting brain chemistry.
Beyond the commonly known symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats, women also tend to report cognitive changes. Menopause can usher in alterations in memory, attention, and task-handling abilities for some women.

At MenoCog Lab, we're dedicated to uncovering and understanding these changes in women's brain function through surveys and experiments designed to shed light on the cognitive performance shifts experienced during this crucial life transition.

Understanding the Science Behind Changes.

Some research indicates that menopausal women, on average, exhibit lower performance in tasks assessing verbal learning and memory. Some studies suggest lower performance in tasks involving prefrontal brain areas, such as fine motor skills, attention, and working memory. However, other studies report no changes in memory and attention. Whilst many women will not lose performance, others will need to find ways to cope with and handle these changes. Our ongoing research aims to not only capture individual experiences but also understand the fundamental biological changes most menopausal women undergo.

In this article, we explore some science-backed strategies to enhance emotional well-being and cognitive health during this transformative phase.

Science-Backed Strategies for Emotional Well-being and Cognitive Health:

1. Prioritize Hormone Health:
Hormones, particularly estrogen, play a crucial role in menopause-related changes.
Existing studies have shown that lowered estrogen levels are associated with cognitive difficulties such as forgetfulness and difficulty in concentrating, commonly called “menopausal brain fog”. In certain cases, these cognitive changes are associated with small declines in verbal memory, working memory, and attention.
This is apparently because of the neuroprotective effect of estrogen which helps neurons survive and maintain their health.

Some studies suggest that HRT which is usually estrogen or combinations of estrogen-progestin, is effective for relieving menopause symptoms.

However, consult your healthcare professionals to find out the suitability of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) options, to positively influence mood and cognitive function.

2. Embrace Regular Exercise:

UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the North American Menopause Society recommend regular exercise as an intervention for treating mild to moderate symptoms in menopausal women. They suggest a combination of regular physical activity, including aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening, flexibility and balance can help alleviate common menopausal symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, lowered mobility, weight gain etc. Physical activity also has proven benefits for mood and cognition. Engaging in different forms of exercise improves both mental and physical well-being as well as the overall quality of life of women. [2]

3. Adopt a Healthy Diet:

As per the recommendations of the British Nutrition Foundation try to eat a healthy diet containing plenty of fruits, vegetables, calcium-rich foods and low-fat dairy products. Nutrition plays a crucial role in overall health, including mental well-being. Focus on a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins for improved cognitive function. [3]

4. Prioritize Quality Sleep:

Existing studies show that hormonal fluctuations during menopause can disrupt sleep patterns. The causes and symptoms associated with insomnia are varied across women and are influenced by their menopause symptoms as well. Establish a consistent sleep routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, and consider seeking professional help for sleep-related issues. [4] Sleep is crucial for the body’s restitution. It plays an important role in maintaining cogntive performance as well as memory consolidation. [6]

5. Manage Stress through Mindfulness:

Chronic stress can worsen menopause symptoms. A review of the existing literature found that many women during midlife practise relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and yoga to help them manage menopausal symptoms. However, these practices may not relieve symptoms such as hot flushes or fatigue. [5]

Practising mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques like meditation and deep breathing have been shown to reduce stress, improve mental health and sleep quality.
And finally….
Menopause is a natural phase, and understanding the scientific basis of the changes occurring can empower women to manage their mood, cognition, and mental health effectively. By prioritizing hormone health, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and incorporating stress-reduction strategies, women can navigate this transition with resilience and well-being.

We have designed an in-person study currently taking place at the University of Nottingham. 

We're interested in hearing from ALL women aged 35 years and above. 

Please contact us at [email protected].uk to get more information and to take part in the study !

An inconvenience allowance will be provided to women who choose to take part in our study. We encourage you to reach out and become a valuable part of our research efforts. Your contribution can make a significant impact.

1. Koire, Amanda MD, PhD; Joffe, Hadine MD, MSc; Buckley, Rachel PhD. (2022).
Menopausal Hormone Therapy and the Mind: The Role of Hormone
Replacement in the Prevention and Treatment of Cognitive Decline, Dementia,
and Cognitive Dysfunction of Depression.
2. Grindler, Natalia M. MD; Santoro, Nanette F. MD. (2015) Menopause and
3. Silva, Thais R., Karen Oppermann, Fernando M. Reis, and Poli Mara Spritzer.
(2021). "Nutrition in Menopausal Women: A Narrative Review"
4. Shaver, J. L., Woods, N. F., & Kennison, R. F. (2015). Sleep and Menopause: A
Narrative Review.
5. Thomas, T., Kamath, N., Kumar, A. (2020). Mindfulness and Menopause- A
6. Maquet, P. (2001). The role of sleep in learning and memory. Science.

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